In May of 2008, this site was the first to publish reports, attributed to the NGO Helping Hands Korea, that North Korea had issued orders to its border guards to shoot fleeing refugees, notwithstanding its failure to provide them with the basic necessities of life and its draconian treatment of those who try to provide for themselves. The Times of London later picked up those reports.
Other reports suggest that the shoot-to-kill policy was hardly new. According to one previous report, for example, Chinese police found the bodies of 53 murdered North Koreans washed up along the banks of the Yalu. This BBC/Chosun Ilbo footage showing the body of a dead refugee woman suggests that she drowned while crossing, which is probably true, although a fatal bullet wound wouldn’t necessarily have been apparent on her body.
Today, the Chosun Ilbo cites “South Korean and U.S. intelligence agencies” to report that the orders to shoot fleeing North Koreans, or to imprison them for ten years in circumstances they’d not likely survive, came directly from Kim Jong Il himself:
Intelligence agencies in the two countries say Kim started tightening control in 2007, with barbed wire fences and surveillance cameras installed along the North Korea-China border and soldiers ordered to shoot defectors. Later that year separate surveillance and inspection teams were dispatched to the border.
In March 2008, Jang Song-taek, Kim’s brother-in-law and close aide who is the administration director of the Workers’ Party, personally oversaw checks of party, government and military organizations in Sinuiju, a gateway city in the border area. Several corrupt city officials were apparently executed at his orders. [Chosun Ilbo]
That would be Jang Song-Thaek, technocrat, reformer, and the great hope of Washington’s most irrationally exuberant North Korea watchers for a kinder, gentler North Korea.
I know I speak for all of you when I say that I’m eagerly awaiting Ban Ki Moon’s response.